Croatia’s conservative opposition won the country’s first election since it joined the European Union in 2013, according to preliminary results on Sunday, but its narrow victory mean lengthy coalition talks are likely to follow in the next days or weeks. The new government will have to nurture a tentative economic recovery after six years of recession and deal with thousands of migrants from the Middle East streaming through the tiny Adriatic state on their way to western and northern Europe. “We estimate we will have around 10 seats more than the SDP. We will talk to all those who want changes in Croatia,” said Gordan Jandrokovic, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) senior official and former foreign minister.
The conservative alliance led by the opposition HDZ party favours a tougher stance than its main rival, the ruling Social Democrats, on the migrant issue, seeking stricter border controls to manage the flow of people crossing the small Adriatic state of 4.4 million.
Some 338,000 migrants have passed through Croatia since mid-September, crossing the border from Serbia at a daily rate of 5,000 or sometimes 10,000. Few linger in Croatia, one of the poorest EU states where unemployment is at 16%, well above the bloc’s 9% average.
Driven largely by economic concerns, the election follows a landmark victory by opposition conservatives in Poland last month. The Polish Law and Justice party pledges to oppose mandatory quotas for relocation of migrants within the EU and echoes the HDZ’s nationalist undertones.